Substantially more Great Lakes dredging on the way?

TOLEDO, Ohio – The end of what the Grate Lakes Maritime Task Force has labeled the “Great Lakes dredging crisis” took a step closer to reality yesterday when the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4348, which included a provision that could lead to substantially increased Great Lakes dredging funding.

The amendment directs that all funding collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund be spent on dredging each year. Currently the Fund has a $7 billion surplus. More than 16 million cubic yards of sediment clog Great Lakes ports and waterways because funding for dredging has been inadequate for decades, the task force said in a press release.

“Passage of H.R. 4348 with the Boustany amendment represents further progress in requiring that the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund monies all be spent on dredging each year,” said Eugene Caldwell, president of Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, in a statement. Caldwell is also VP and GM of Bay Shipbuilding Company in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. “This is important progress as this legislation moves forward toward a House/Senate Conference Committee.”

The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund has always had enough money to dredge all the nation’s deep-draft ports and waterways, the task force feels. It typically collects $1.6 billion in taxes each year, but only spends about half that total.

“The dredging crisis has limited Great Lakes shipping’s ability to efficiently serve America’s industrial heartland,” said Don Cree in a release. Cree is 1st VP of GLMTF and Great Lakes Special Assistant to the National President for American Maritime Officers, a labor union representing licensed officers on many Great Lakes vessels. “Ships designed to carry more than 70,000 tons of iron ore or coal each trip have routinely left port with 10 percent or more of their hauling power unused. The lost carrying capacity has effectively decreased the capacity of the Great Lakes/Seaway system.”

“GLMTF has dedicated all its resources to the dredging crisis,” said James H.I. Weakley, 2nd VP of the coalition and president of Lake Carriers’ Association, the trade association representing U.S.-flag vessel operators on the Great Lakes. “At times it seemed the battle was lost, but thanks to the dedicated efforts of our Great Lakes delegation in Washington, we continue to make progress on this critical issue,” he continued in the release.

“Now we must focus our efforts on the House/Senate Conference Committee,” said John D. Baker, 3rd VP of GLMTF in a statement. “Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and a bipartisan group of his colleagues have led this effort in the Senate. We are fortunate that our Senators are equally dedicated to shipping on the Fourth Sea Coast.”

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